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Statement from Councilor Wu on the Boston Public Schools 2020 Exam School Admissions Process

Released: Oct 21, 2020

Yesterday was the second straight day of 800+ new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, and it’s looking like my son will likely not be returning to in-person learning this year. It’s a huge burden for my family and for so many others who are struggling to balance work responsibilities with children at home. This burden has fallen disproportionately on Black and brown families and has deepened structural injustices and disparities across the city. 

There is no way to administer a safe and fair exam school admissions test under these circumstances. In the midst of a global pandemic, implementing any test will only exacerbate existing inequities in our schools.

BPS, through the efforts of the Exam School Admissions Criteria working group, has proposed a plan before the school committee that reckons with the harsh reality of these pandemic conditions. It’s a well-researched, thoughtful plan that offers an equitable alternative to an exam this year. It may not be perfect, and I still have questions about data and details of implementation, but I believe this is a good proposal.

I’m intimately familiar with Boston Latin School and the exam school process. When my mom had a mental health crisis, I became legal guardian for my youngest sister. When the time came, I made sure she took the exam school test because I was told she could get a top-notch education at only a few high schools in the city. My sister got into Boston Latin School, and her experience there—and my experience as a BPS mom—have cemented my understanding of the racial inequity in our schools. 

This year can be a turning point to create a transparent process and move towards a system where we recognize that all of our students are capable and deserving of a rigorous and nurturing education that opens doors to opportunity. We must implement systemic solutions to systemic problems. And those solutions don’t stop with our exam schools.

Changes need to happen through open and inclusive processes that build trust with our school communities. Once again, I’m deeply disappointed that BPS has excluded those most impacted by their decisions. Trust in government is at an all-time low, and our vision for equity and opportunity must be carried out with every effort to seek and incorporate feedback. Trust will also be built or broken with how this proposal is executed, and it should immediately include language access, clear timelines, and transparent communication.